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Getting out the Black vote

MOLLIE F. BELT | 7/14/2014, 10:46 a.m.
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

Monday night at the African American Museum, Community Conversation presented by The Dallas Examiner, took the format of a workshop on “How To Get the Black Vote Out.”

Realizing we are fast approaching the general election on Nov. 4, where Texans will elect a U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, Dallas County district attorney, Dallas County judge and other important elected positions in the state of Texas.

Presenters for the workshop were Casey Thomas, DISD teacher and political action chairman for the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP and a member of Generation X; Arielle Clarkson, University of Texas at Arlington student and community activist who is a member of the Millennial Generation; and Mercedes Fulbright, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington and community activist who is a member of Generation Y.

Thomas began by telling the group that everyone is important in the voting process. There are many things that individuals can do to get people registered to vote and get people to the polls to vote on Election Day.

He also talked about the importance of precinct chairs, election judges and block captains, as well as the importance of taking the voting message wherever you go, i.e. church, social groups, etc. He mentioned Super Sunday, when previously churches took busloads of people from church to the nearest polling place. Recently, we have not had this kind of effort from the churches.

One of the attendees brought up the fact that many people don’t know how to vote. Recently, she observed people coming to the polls and not knowing how to mark ballots. She thought to herself, all of her hard work, walking the neighborhood was in vain.

Dallas County will provide voting machines upon request for the purpose of teaching people how to use the machines. One precinct chair said she lives in a senior citizen high-rise and she had the county bring voting machines to the residence to teach residents how to operate the voting machines.

There was also a lengthy discussion on why young people are not voting. It was stated that there seems to be a feeling that voting will not change anything for them. One suggestion was to tell them what would happen if they don’t vote.

Clarkson and Fulbright discussed the characteristics of the young voter – the Millennial and Y Generation – and what it will take to engage this demographic in voting.

Clarkson presented to the group, how some young people are already involved in the voting process. For example, young people’s organizations have joined the voter ID lawsuit in Texas.

They stressed that young people want to be involved, they want to volunteer, and they want to be treated with respect.

With social media being probably their primary form of communication, Fulbright enlightened the group on Black Twitter, the difference in how young people use Facebook, Twitter and TweetDeck and Tagboard.

Several groups are conducting voter education and registration efforts. These efforts need to be coordinated. An organized, coordinated effort will enable volunteers to know where they are needed. It also lets others, who are willing to start an effort in their area, know if their area is being left off the effort. The effort to get out the vote will take many individuals with diverse interests and talents. Some may be willing to educate individuals and/or groups, others may be able to provide drivers/transportation. There will be groups needed to get the message out through social media, hold meetings and workshops, make phone calls and pound the pavement – a grassroots effort. Volunteers are needed to spread voter education to churches, colleges and high schools, senior living communities, barber and beauty shops, and local organizations.

Sept. 23 is National Voter Registration Day and Dallas County will need approximately 300 volunteers. Voter Registration is non-partisan. We encourage all able-body persons to call the Elections Department at 214-819-6300 and volunteer.

This was the beginning of sharing information among the different generations and demonstrated that we can learn from each other – if we listen and share.

The Dallas Examiner will provide on the Politics page of our website, http://www.dallasexaminer.com, a listing of organizations and the geographical areas they are working. Organizations and individuals interested in listing their efforts can email rjimenez@dallasexaminer.com for details.

Be part of the conversation. Send your letters to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.